BONN (May. 16)
West Germany’s extreme right-wing political parties suffered major defeats in Sunday’s elections in North Rhine Westphalia and Lower Saxony, West Germany’s most heavily populated states, which account for about 40 percent of the national electorate.
The Republican Party, hitherto the most successful of the far-right factions, took a severe drubbing, as did the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party and various fringe groups of their ilk.
Pundits attribute the setback for the right to mounting popular concern over the unification process with East Germany, which has become the cause celebre of German rightists.
After the initial euphoria of Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall was demolished, voters began to realize that a swift unification process could bring hardship in the form of higher taxes and higher prices.
Some 19 million voters cast ballots in the two states. Parties needed 5 percent of the popular vote to be eligible for a seat in a state legislature. The Republicans scored 1.8 percent of the total vote in North Rhine-Westphalia and 1.5 percent in Lower Saxony.
Only last summer, they won just under 8 percent of the national vote for delegates to the Parliament of Europe, the legislative body of the European Community, based in Strasbourg, France.
The Munich-based party is led by former Waffen SS officer Franz Schoenhuber, who once described West Germany’s small Jewish community as “the fifth occupation power,” after the United States, Soviet Union, Britain and France.
The Republicans were ousted from the local parliament in the Recklinghausen district, after failing to attain the 5 percent minimum. In the last elections there, they polled 10 percent.
The National Democrats, whose membership includes many former Nazi party members, got just 0.2 percent of the vote in Sunday’s elections.